The Blumhouse formula of making movies may be the future of the business for the next few years as COVID shuts down Hollywood big money markets overseas. In the eye of the worst year the film industry has seen in decades, small budget movies with little risk and a moderate reward may very well be the future of Hollywood.
It’s hard to find a truly quality film in the age of COVID which makes Black Box such a refreshing surprise. In a plot twisted right out of an episode of The Twilight Zone, Black Box is the story about a widowed husband named Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) who struggles with memory loss following the accident that claimed his wife’s life. Nolan lives with his young daughter who struggles to manage him on a today to today basis. Running out of ideas, he decides to try an experimental treatment run by Dr. Lilian Brooks (Phylicia Rashad) which promises to open up his past memories. The problem lies that Nolan’s memories are much darker than he anticipated leaving him wonder if he was truly the monster in his mind or if there is a monster in his mind.
In his directorial debut, Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour gets it right by not keeping it simple and not overstepping his boundaries. Black Box is a film that keeps its audience intrigued by giving a small enough piece of the puzzle that they come back as ask for the next one. A strong story that holds their interests while giving them pieces of the twist to keep them asking “what’s next”. The film plays with the emotion of regret of not one but two characters, a grieving father who can’t connect with his past and a young med student who tries to escape his own.
The character motivations doesn’t present us with a hero and a villain but a group of conflicted individuals who make decisions based on their inability to let go of the past. Black Box is largely carried on the acting of Mamoudou Athie whose 2020 has been an opportunity to prove himself as a leading man which he showed great promise from in the film. The one issue with having one or two characters carry a movie is that the supporting cast is marginalized as a result so no one else really gets a chance to be here.
Black Box is a satisfying sci-fi film and while the horror isn’t as strong as it could be, the sound design and unsettling close ups makes up for the lack of dread. Black Box is a grappling film causing it to leap into one of the top films of the year.